*Editor’s note: The Shore Scout is a basketball junkie who sees numerous local games and has been granted anonymity in exchange for his opinions on teams and players from around the Shore. He was previously with us on our All Shore Media site and has now brought his takes to Shore Sports Network. Enjoy.*

A little while back I walked into a gym and I overheard a gentleman with a CBA T-shirt remark that “I’ve seen Point Beach, and they're unbeatable.” I assume he was talking about being unbeatable in the Shore Conference. While Beach just lost the other day to The Patrick School of Union County, is it possible that there is no one to challenge them this year at the Shore? I happen to think they can be beaten. But it won’t be easy.

For one thing, while it seems like an annual ritual for a lot of people to say the Shore is “down” every year, there does seem to be a drop-off in the number of talented teams from years past. Neptune, where Kenny O’Donnell may be doing his best coaching job ever, doesn’t have the front line or overall skills their teams have had in the past. Colts Neck, Middletown North, Asbury Park, Raritan are all lacking the overall depth they’ve had in recent years. That’s not to say there aren’t good teams out there. There are. But I believe there’s only two that will give Point Beach a game, and I’ll explain why.

The Shore Scout thinks Jack Laffey and a certain team from Lincroft has what it takes to potentially knock off the Shore Conference's top dog, No. 1 Point Beach. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle)

Basketball is a game of match-ups. Any coach will tell you that certain teams scare him because they just don’t match up well. I think there are two teams that match up well enough with Point Beach to give them a game. One has a decent chance while the other is an absolute long shot, but I wouldn’t be stunned if it happens.

CBA can beat Point Beach. I love CBA’s frontline. Patrick Andree, Jack Laffey, Chimaechi Ekekeugbor and Evan Gordinier have the size and the strength to give Point’s bigs all they can handle, plus CBA starts a couple of good-sized guards in Lou Pillari and Rob Kennedy. Physically, CBA can stand toe-to-toe with Beach. They will have to keep Matt Farrell in check and that’s asking a lot, but if they do, and if they are relentless on the offensive and defensive boards, they can pull off the upset.

The other team, and this is admittedly a longshot, is Shore Regional. Shore would have to play the way they did against St. Joe's-Metuchen in the beginning of the year. In other words, they’ll have to shoot the lights out the entire game. Shore is lacking in size but they can shoot, and if they can somehow get into a shooting match with Beach and rain down threes, they have a fighter’s chance.

Do I think Point Beach will lose to a Shore Conference team this year? No, I don’t. But it won’t stun me either if someone knocks them off.

NOTES- If I had to pick one kid to take a last second shot for me it might be Terrel Cox of Long Branch. What a smooth stroke he has. Jake Logue of Southern is another kid who has a nice release and can fill it up from deep. Chris O’Reilly of Colts Neck is another good shooter who has exceptional range. Ryan Janeczek of Wall is an impressive shooter while teammate Brendan Barcas shows some toughness at the point guard spot….. For pure strength, I can’t remember seeing two stronger players in recent years than Mike Gesicki of Southern and Quenton Nelson of RBC….. Speaking of RBC, I saw them earlier in the year and they looked like they would struggle the entire year. I guess new coach Jim Catalano has gotten his message across. He’s done a heck of a job….. Dan Niblack , a transfer from Jackson Liberty, has been a huge pick-up for Lakewood. Niblack is a slasher who loves to attack the basket and has a decent mid-range game and is good in the open floor. Shakeem Richardson of Neptune is another good shooter and teammate Kerry Kirkwood surprised me with a nice touch from 15-18 ft. Cam Calderon is a defensive pest for the Fliers. He has quick, quick hands.

One last thought: I’ve mentioned several good shooters today, and there’s probably a dozen more who deserve mention. What I don’t see much of is really good ball-handling. I've seen more big men have to bring the ball up the floor this year because the guards can't bring the ball up the floor against pressure. That shouldn't happen. It seems like once kids reach a certain age they don’t feel like they need to practice ball-handling. Matt Farrell has the best handle at the Shore. You think it’s an accident that he stands out so much? If you’re a player and you think you’re working hard enough, ask yourself how much time you spent this week on your handle. I’ll bet it wasn’t enough. College coaches notice EVERYTHING. Shooting helps, but it’s not enough. If you can shoot, great. Now get to work on your ball-handling. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it will improve your game.

That’s it for now. I’m the Shore Scout, and I’ll see you in the gym.